Friday, October 22, 2010

Comfort foods

I believe that I may be know as that weird roommate that really likes greens. The first few weeks in Italy were spent sauteing down beet greens, and gobbling them up with or without pasta on the side. I had an ever so brief affair with spinach, but feel that it is too much of a diva in the world of greens. It'll faint in a minute.

This week, after finishing up my last midterm (which I conveniently slept through the first hour of, really emily? your timing is incredible), I made my way over to my favorite market to resock on my fruits and veggies. I purposefully avoided the tables of cheap clothing, bags, and shoes knowing all too well that I would find some sort of gem and end up penniless for my food shopping. An hour later, after my usual routine of walking up and down the aisle checking to see who's cheapest and what looks best, dreaming up what I could make with it all, I found myself with hands overflowing with food. My little pocket shopping bag was past overflowing and I had an additional bag on my wrist and a busta (oops, paper bag) with my prized persimmons in the other hand. Walking out of the market I was a bit frazzled at how on earth I was to carry all this home. On the sidewalk I ran into my italian teacher leaving a cafe. She asked me what on earth I was doing here and do I live near by? No no, sto faccendo la spesa [doing my shopping]. She looked quite surprised to see my bag over flowing the eager tops of cavalo nero and what-will-most-likely-be-my-last-bunch of beets and their greens. The image of college student and dark leafy greens is probably not something she would ever put together.

Once I finally made it home, hands aching from the bags (of course this was the one day I don't have my backpack), I got to work on the beets. We have a small refrigerator by American standards and sharing it between six girls gets cramped. There was no way this huge bag of beets was going to fit. So knowing that this would probably be the last I will see of the beets for the season, I gave them a proper send off. The tops were filthy and I put on this american life and got to work cleaning them up. Soon enough they were chopped and piled waiting to join the onion and garlic in the pan. I watched as the little mud puddles were sucked down the drain. It's so comforting to see dirt on your ingredients, that way you really know they are real. I slivered up one of the four beets that came with the whole mess and added it to my onions. It's amazing only four beets with all of that, you'd think they would be wasting their energy producing all that green. In the end, I put almost two hours into those beets. But what I got out was beautiful. Melty greens with crisp-tender stems and slices of beet, all flecked with bright pink onions and stewing in the reduced balsamic from the braising. Yum.

This afternoon, I tackled some of the cavalo nero while chuckling along to Terry Gross' interview with Jason Schwartzman. Mashed potatoes with kale. Perfect food to welcome in fall.

For me comfort food is not foods I remember eating as a child, but more of the things that I would never go near. I love kale, greens and even broccoli rabe. And lately there is nothing I want more than a good orange marmalade. And persimmons, did I mention those? Or how about that time of all flavors of gelati at Gelateria di Neri I chose the darkest chocolate and licorice? I like being the outlier, more for me. Thanks mom, you've got good taste(buds).

The bags that nearly killed me.


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